The environment and agriculture are two subjects that often seem to be in conflict, but this is a perception Waitaki Girls’ High School teacher Jessica Wright is keen to change.
EnviroAg is a new subject for year 10 students implemented at the beginning of the year by Mrs Wright and North Otago Sustainable Land Management (Noslam) engagement officer Bridget McNally.
“Bridget and I have developed a lot of it and I have changed my focus on ag. It’s very much more community focused,” Mrs Wright said.
“The support I’ve had from Bridget and Noslam has been awesome – the facilitation has been brilliant. They’ve brought things together that would be harder for me to do.
“There’s a real environmental focus to it, because we are an Enviro School, and I lead that. It’s such an important part of farming now.
“So many of our farmers are really quite inspirational in the environment space and I want the girls to understand that and see all of the processes they go through.”
Mrs Wright said the Covid-19 lockdown interfered with how they had intended running the course in terms 1 and 2, because it ruled out farm visits, but people in the industry “really stepped up” and made on-farm videos for the students.
“It just makes you appreciate what an awesome community we have, in terms of that support and that real drive to educate.
“We’ve got the ability to go out on farm regularly. We’ve had a really diverse bunch of speakers. This gives an opportunity to realise there’s lots and lots of opportunities on farm, but also bucketloads of opportunities beyond the farm gate.
“Really, whatever you enjoy, there is going to be an aspect of ag or agbusiness that you can do.”
The subject had given the girls access to some quite innovative and progressive farmers and a multitude of speakers, she said.
It also fed well into NCEA Level 1 agriculture in year 11.
“We do agbusiness in years 12 and 13. It’s a very academic ag course. So this is providing a really good basis for that.
“There is a bit of a perception that ag is a less academic subject, and that’s absolutely not the case.”
Mrs Wright said she had had support from the Waitaki Youth Council, along with a wide range of industry providers, including Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ and Fonterra.
“With the resources that we’ve been able to collect, between Bridget and I, we’ve been able to do that real mix between real-life learning, online learning and classroom learning, and that’s really valuable, because students are learning quite differently to what they would have 20 years ago.”
Mrs Wright said the subject and the way the course was being run was unique to Waitaki Girls’.
“I think we’re quite innovative in what we’re doing.
“It’s going to take a year or two to bed down, to work out exactly where we’re going to get to with it, and you’ve got to work within the constraints of a school – so, you know, timetables and quite a divergent group of students.”